Creating your home office space

When you work from home, it's really important to know where your home ends and work begins. Freelancer Sarah Hughes explains how she struck the balance.

After a year of freelancing – mainly from my kitchen table, sometimes from my living room and occasionally even my bed (yes – guilty!) and with a perfectly good spare room currently acting as a dumping ground for all of my junk, I decided it was time to do what I really should have done at the beginning of my freelance journey – create a space in my home that was just for work – and just for me.

I excitedly started to think about what I wanted and decided to do a little research and find out what others had done – several hours later I was left feeling rather overwhelmed by the amount of ‘show home’ style office images and articles I had come across, and rather underwhelmed by the distinct lack of articles and advice that I could find from ‘real people’.

A few weeks on and now happily ensconced in my new office, I kept thinking of the hours that I dedicated to getting it just right – and whilst I wouldn’t change it – I did think that maybe some of the things I had learnt and picked up along the way might be useful for other freelancers looking to decorate or revamp their own home office.

So here are my top ten tips:

  1. Make a list of what you think you might like and what you think you might want before you start researching décor and furniture ideas. There are a million and one articles out there on decorating your home office and they will lead you down many a wrong path if you don’t have an idea of what will suit you beforehand. For example, lots of articles I came across suggested “go chic” or “be artsy” – I spent a lot of time looking at these things that were not really me. I got so frustrated that eventually I wrote down a list of everything that reflects my tastes and let that guide me – it should have been the first thing I did!
  2. Decide on your budget of course – but also decide how much time you are willing to dedicate to it. There are lots of ways to save money, but it will depend on how much time you have to spend on finding what you want within the budget you have. For example – I decided when writing my list that I wanted to upcycle the furniture and décor in my office wherever possible – this affected my budget in a positive way as I wasn’t buying new – but it also meant that I needed to spend a lot more time finding the right pieces instead of bulk ordering all my furniture from Amazon/Ikea etc.
  3. Upcycle/Second-hand – if you decide to go down the same route as me, I’d recommend putting aside an Afternoon to browse all your local charity and antique shops. I had decided that I wanted walnut furniture, so I spent some time in town to see what I could find – I ended up with a walnut desk for £15 plus a grand old oak mirror for £15 and 6 oak frames for £10 – which I then sanded down and varnished with a walnut stain. All from Eleanor’s Hospice Shop and all delivered to me too for small additional cost. eBay and Gumtree are also great for second hand finds and bargains too – my favourite piece of furniture is a vintage wooden filing cabinet from the 1930’s which I found on eBay for a brilliant price.
  4. If you are buying new items – look at end of line or auction stock to save money – I got a lovely office chair for the bargain price of £10.50 (down from £52) – all because there was a tiny puncture mark on the seat.
  5. Don’t be afraid to steal pieces of furniture or décor from other rooms of your house – I stole a little (walnut of course!) table from my living room to put my peace lily on and it really adds to the aesthetics of the office.
  6. On that note, invest in some hardy plants for your office – if, like me – you prefer neutrals – plants are a great way to add a splash of colour to your office – they also do things like purify the air, boost creativity and reduce stress.
  7. My office is small – if yours is the same then think about using a mirror – they are great at boosting the sense of space and amplifying light in the room.
  8. Don’t be afraid to mix and match – I’ve got a dark and old desk, filing cabinet and book shelf that contrast beautifully with a modern chrome office chair and table lamp.
  9. If you’ve decided to go for wooden furniture and you want timber flooring too – then pick the furniture colour first – you can build out from there and pick flooring that contrasts and offers a variation of colour to your furniture. One tip that I did pick up was to not match the colour of your floor and furniture but to look at the tone, wood grain and finish of both to make sure they compliment.
  10. Personalise your office space – with anything that will boost your mood or inspire you. In the frames on my wall – I’ve got postcards I like and quotes that resonate with me. For the frames on my bookshelf – I’ve popped in pictures that my Son has drawn or painted – which add another welcome splash of colour and also make me smile every time I look at them.